Cruz: Rebound in '03

Getty Image/Jed Jacobsohn

Jose Cruz. Jr had an off-year in 2002, but he is expected to perform better, as pitchers will be forced to pitch to him out of fear of superstar Barry Bonds.

Jose Cruz Jr. had on off year in 2002. After having a .274-34-88 season (with 32 stolen bases) in 2001 he declined to a mediocre .245-18-70 last season. This may make him seem to be a risky prospect, but he was an improvement over Benard both defensively and offensively.

He also provides versatility in the outfield, as over his career he has played all three outfield positions. His fielding has improved since his first years in the late 90's. Last year he totaled only 2 errors in 124 games.

I also sense that he is due for a rebound. He will benefit from hitting in front of Bonds, and he will be able to take advantage of his speed as he is batting second in the lineup. He also did walk slightly more in 2002 than in 2001 (51 walks in '02, 45 in '01), despite having 111 fewer at bats. He also cut his strikeouts from 138 to 106, which isn't quite as impressive considering the decrease in at-bats, but he also increased his walk-to-strikeout ratio. A high number of walks per strikeout is a strong sign of a patient player.

After three games in 2003, Cruz has 5 hits in 11 at-bats. He has a double and a home run, has walked three times, and is yet to have a single strikeout. I believe that this shows he really benefits from batting ahead of Barry Bonds in the Giants lineup.

I predict him to hit .275 with 25 HR, 90 RBI, 30 SB, 80 walks, and only 100 strikeouts.

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